INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. --Sweeps throughout Indianapolis’ north and east sides Wednesday and Thursday locked up 45people on various prostitution, drug and probation violations as IMPD followed up its Operation First Step raids earlier this summer to address neighborhood complaints about crime.
“My narcotics detectives have open 122 narcotics complaints right now on North District alone,” said Commander Chris Bailey as he stood outside a home not far from his district headquarters as narcotics detectives found drugs and a gun and took one woman into custody, “and these are coming in from the community and I am sure we were brought here by someone in the community.”
Someone like Jacqueline Hatton, who owns property on East 34th Street who said she was threatened by neighborhood women after speaking to Fox 59 News and IMPD about crime in her community.
“We got a lot going on, everyone hollering, ‘Black lives matter!’ but to who? Do they matter us? Because it they do, we need to stop killing each other,” said Hatton. “We need to search around our own homes and start working with our children making each other value each other.”
Parole and probation officers also participated in the sweep, which is part of "Operation First Step." Police Chief Troy Riggs said Thursday afternoon that police have arrested 39 people in the last two days; 16 on Wednesday and another 23 on Thursday. Officers were targeting the East Washington corridor in response to several complaints from people who live in the area.
Since May 1, when IMPD began enacting a new strategy of putting more narcotics detectives under the authority of district commanders to directly attack neighborhood drug complaints, 600 suspects have been arrested citywide and more than 100 guns confiscated.
Riggs said police are seeing rising crime rates in cities across the country, including an uptick in homicides in Indianapolis. He said forging a good relationship with the community is key and believes IMPD's efforts are paying off.
"I got to tell you, some of the tips we're getting from the community, I have not seen during my time here in Indianapolis," Riggs said. "I want to give a great deal of thanks to the citizens of Indianapolis. I think a lot of that can be attributed to our officers who are out on the scenes every day meeting with citizens."
Riggs said IMPD received several complaints about East Washington, including drugs and prostitution. Tips from the community and concerns about quality of life in the area led to an increased focus. Officers took 11 weapons off the street and also confiscated drugs. In addition, they found an individual who was in possession of smoke grenades.
Riggs acknowledged that many people in the area are struggling and often turn to crime and prostitution as a result. The department is working with those individuals to provide services to help them, Riggs said, including free STD testing.
Most alarming to Riggs is how simple, trivial arguments are turning into homicides.
"In the last 24 hours we had individuals who have died as a result of violence. We've had individuals that have been assaulted. Some of these homicides and some of these assaults are over things like a video game. A few dollars. One individual was critically injured over one beverage of beer," Riggs said. "That's the type of attitudes we're dealing with as a community. That's why it's going to take all of us to move forward."
Riggs said the department is working to protect those who provide them with information about criminal activity. They can approach ministers or other members of the community to act as an intermediary or submit tips anonymously online.
"We don't care how we get the information. We just need the information and people are finding ways to contact us. Most people are taking the direct route. They're just calling us and telling us information," he said, adding that IMPD's beat officers are also getting information from the community.
Riggs said there are two types of information they need: anonymous tips and information from people who witness a crime. The second type can be challenging, and he said IMPD will do what it can to protect those who step forward, including relocating them.
FOX59's Russ McQuaid went along with IMPD for part of the operation Thursday. Narcotics detectives made their first stop in the 2900 block of East 34th Street, not far from the backdoor of IMPD's North District Headquarters. Police found six people, drugs, gun and a baby. Officers arrested one woman.
Elsewhere on the north side, officers accompanied a probation officers who found drugs in the house of an offender who was out on home detention. The discovery could result in that offender's return to jail.
In late June, officers rounded up dozens of suspects in an effort to stamp out local drug dealing and send a message to parolees. Thursday's sweep was a continuation of that effort as police targeted drug and violent offenders.